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Truth Social: What do advertisers make of Trump’s new social media platform?

Featured Press - First published on the Drum

Former US president Donald Trump’s social app, Truth Social, launched on the App Store today and quickly topped the free downloads chart. If the audience is there, will advertisers follow?

Trump is testing the adage ‘if you build it they will come’ with his new social media platform Truth Social. After he was unceremoniously banned from Twitter following multiple breaches of its terms and his role in the January 6 Capitol riots, the former US president was denied his primary source of communications with his audience. Now, his own personal social network has launched on the US Apple App Store – albeit in a limited fashion and extremely visibly similar to Twitter. Trump’s team is banking on his fans eagerly snapping up the app.

It follows a limited trial of a small number of users, which was replete with technical issues. Despite the slow start, project lead at the Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) Devin Nunes states that the app should be fully ready by the end of March.

It presents advertisers with a number of dilemmas, both technical and moral. At the time of writing, the platform’s website was down with an error – and since there is no web version of the platform, it limits potential audiences to only those in the US on iOS. That also raises the specter of being vulnerable to changes made by Apple, both in terms of the app being deprioritized or buried by Apple in the App Store and the ongoing privacy and ad revenue issues on Apple platforms.

Trump Social is often compared to Parler, a right-wing Twitter-esque social app backed by Rebekah Mercer, a major donor to the Republican Party. It was previously banned from the App Store by Apple for its users disseminating information relating to the Capitol riots.

Apple stated: “In the period since Apple removed the Parler app from the App Store, Apple’s App Review Team has engaged in substantial conversations with Parler in an effort to bring the Parler app into compliance with the guidelines and reinstate it in the App Store.” It is a reminder that, no matter if Truth Social claims to be an open forum for discussion, it is reliant upon Apple for its distribution.

At the time of writing, the number of users who had been placed on a waitlist to join Truth Social exceeded 160,000. That’s a relatively tiny number, particularly considering that social ads rely on targeting capabilities that Truth Social is unlikely to have. That means advertisers will be buying at scale, on a platform that lacks the scale of its competitors. It is also unclear to what extent that audience will be unique, or whether its users will also be replicated across other social platforms.

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